After a whirlwind indoor campaign last year, the Ladies 1s jumped up 3 leagues from East Prem to Division 1 in just one season. No mean feat, this season included trips to Norwich, Croydon and, most memorably, Bradford. 3 weekends later and the team came out on tops to return to its former heights. Now securely in England Hockey’s Super 6s Division 1 league, the Ladies 1s knew that the 2016/2017 season would contain more experienced and established indoor teams. They hoped this league would also contain more even and well-lit indoor pitches.
Bye, bye Bradford
Following a month of training sessions and matches, the first event on the calendar was a warm up tournament: the East Championships in Cambridge. With several new faces in the team, the two matches against Harleston Magpies and St Albans did not go completely to plan. However, some hard lessons were learnt and the team left the tournament ready to make improvements. Refreshed from Christmas indulgence, another friendly match against Framlingham school provided Chelmsford with more opportunities to fine tune their tactics.
“Two blinding goals in short succession.”
Before they knew it, the first weekend of Division 1 arrived. The weekend started bright and early with the journey to UWE Centre of Sports. Chelmsford’s first game was set to be a tough one against long-time rivals Harleston Magpies. With a score to settle from the East Championships, Chelmsford came out in full force. Magpies started the scoring in the 6th minute. Undeterred, Em Davies put one away for the green team. Just 5 minutes later, Molly Redgrove’s short corner shot went whistling past the goalkeeper’s right hand. Feeling left out, Sophie Green stepped up and scored two blinding goals in short succession. One from the baseline at approximately 3 degrees from the goal, the other a minute later driven from Chelmsford’s D to Magpies’, round the goalkeeper and firmly into the back of the net. 4-1 up at the end of the first half, Chelmsford knew that there was still all to play for.
4 minutes into the second half, a goal from Georgia Herron had Magpies 4 goals down. Chelmsford recognised the phases of the game and adjusted their tactics accordingly. Magpies managed to get one goal back but 10 minutes later, the game finished 5-2 in Chelmsford’s favour. Had anyone even realised that coach Glenn Kirkham hadn’t arrived yet?
Rustic farmhouse sandwiches
With 3 games off, Gordon and Hayley Heggie opened up shop…sandwich shop. Artisanal baker Gordon had bought a homemade loaf, breadboard and breadknife to provide rustic farmhouse sandwiches for any customer. The team anticipate bigger and better next week…a sourdough perhaps…it’s the yeast he could do.
“Struggled to finish…”
The next game brought the ladies up against Clifton, a very well-drilled opposition. However, Chelmsford held their own and did not let the game run away from them. Two goals from Clifton in the first half had Chelmsford on the back foot but the green team kept plugging away. Chelmsford struggled to finish and found themselves 3 goals down with 10 minutes to go. Time out was called and captain Hayley Heggie took on the kicking back role. Finally, Chelmsford got one back with another blinding short corner from Molly Redgrove, but this was not enough and the game finished 3-1 to Clifton. The team finished the game both disappointed and enthused. They had suffered a loss but put in a strong performance against top of the table Clifton.
Chelmsford retired to a Holiday Inn for a team swim/aqua aerobics and three course dinner before bed. Much like Clifton, the massive burgers defeated many in the Chelmsford team.
“Confident but cautious…”
Day 2 began as early as the previous, with Chelmsford being the first on pitch against Surbiton – ‘the best team in the country’. Never ones to underestimate the power of youth, Chelmsford entered the battlefield confident but cautious of this young and skilful team. Not much can keep Kate Taylor from scoring however, and in the 13th minute, she finished an open play goal after a sharp, team build up. Surbiton answered back shortly with a goal in the same half. Another goal from Surbiton was disallowed by the umpire as the player took the shot from outside of the D.
As the second half started, Georgia Davies put away a penalty corner to cement Chelmsford’s lead. Surbiton, riled by the relentless hard work of Alex Went and the apparent injustice of the disallowed goal, quickly lost their patience. But Chelmsford remained strong and maintained their lead throughout the second half. As the game finished there were cries for a video referral…Chelmsford knew they had entered a higher league from last season but had they missed a trick? Were they actually in the Prem league, playing at Wembley with the advantage of video umpires and Sky Sports coverage? Sadly not for Surbiton, and Chelmsford’s deserved win stood.
To finish the first weekend, Chelmsford faced their oldest rivals, Ipswich, in a local derby. Both teams had come up from Division 2 together, with Ipswich beating Chelmsford in the last game yet Chelmsford still winning the round robin tournament overall. Nerves were high but the task ahead was not unmanageable. Famous last words. An early penalty stroke for Ipswich meant they took the lead. Slightly shaken and far too reactive to the umpires, Chelmsford had a period of unsettled play in the first half with two further goals from Ipswich. Chelmsford remained goalless despite Philli Went’s determined leads down the right hand side straight into the D. Far too many to count went untouched by Chelmsford sticks and off the back line.
“It had to be Ipswich.”
With the second half looming and Chelmsford 3-0 down, Coach Kirkham made the call at half time to go to kicking back. 6 players on the pitch, Chelmsford surged forward and made several attacks on the Ipswich defence. All unrewarded. Another two goals from Ipswich left Chelmsford 5-0 down with 10 minutes to go. However, Philli Went stepped up and pulled one back for the team with her driving run on the right, slotting the ball into the goal from a tight angle. And in the dying seconds of the game, Kate Taylor scored another to finish the game 5-2 to Ipswich. A disheartening game where Chelmsford’s individual skills were visibly not up to scratch. And of course, it had to be Ipswich.
Yet, the whole team should be commended for an impressive weekend of hockey. Finishing mid-table, in 5th place, Chelmsford have shown that they definitely deserve to be in Division 1. Determined to put right their wrongs in next weekend’s games, the Ladies 1s will hopefully jump up a few places. The competition can be followed here:
Visit the website next Monday for Part 2.